in ii I, me Mead was a teenager, he | |ilfiiiiilii|'( (»11 .1 career of traveling the world I Im hii lit)', lo oilier magicians. But after a single

• mm- il I lie age of nineteen, he discovered i 11 i 11 liei perform for humans than dem-

it ti. i.ii indents. Not that Eric is a snob or a

• mil i ii liomil. i le loves sharing and collabo-iii|i wllli oilier serious magicians. But that's not ■ lit. i (in it I

i in |'11111 lie made that choice. Hanging out tin iiucii ghetto"* is incestuously delicious.

ruse Jim Steinmeyer coined, originally

Ii 'I" ill- urea of bookstores where magic is sand-

Mi I In h ■ rii puzzles, games, and other "pastimes."


Myself, I truly love attending conventions, wal lowing in the gadgets of the dealers' room, and drinking in the joy of those who stay up all nighl in the coffee shop and daydream of dominating the world with a new wrinkle on the Zarrow shuffle-

But I'm not sure this artistic communism does a lot of good for our art form as the public sees il The complaint I hear most from members of the public is that "Magicians are all the same." Thai's easy to understand. The fourth magician you set-doing a magic-convention favorite like Three Fly is going to look pretty unoriginal—even if his technique is innovative, or he tells a patter story about three ghosts going from one haunted house to the next. The joy we take in sharing has its down side.

Another reason I'm glad Eric waited two decades to write his first major magic book is that he spent that time acquiring a real-world point of view that many magic ghetto dwellers never achieve. Eric has put in more stage time at the age of forty than most magicians get in .1 lifetime. He played six hours a night four night's a week at the Tower Bar in Aspen for fourteen years. In his career, he has worked streets, cruise h ¡1» tin |'II'iIlly rooms, and nowadays he's in niiM.I i cimee/host at high-end corporate ||tl U In ii lie does a private party (a large part lih "i I ) III1, c lients are people like Jeff Bezos Mini i i -I \iiuizoii.com), Michael Eisner (for-*i . lit ri■ I ' • l I m.iiey), Michael Douglas, Catherine h i>t i iii> Kevin Costner, and Jack Nicholson.

Mil Im 11111 ins I he one and only card trick in (IIP hmm it I h, Aristocrats.

hi' tint I in j^et such cool gigs? Is it because s If nil i|i lllils thai much better than the star of t lin til niiij'.H i Inb? Well, yes, his technique is ||hi • Hiii I In deeper reason that smart, classy Mj i oil I in around is because he's smart ||11 i hi \ 11« '', ,i gentleman of erudition, grace, m 1 1 • llli |ii'.l I lie right seasoning of mischief, Iftnl m t >inil vulgarity—a Jay Marshall for the Pitt nih i|< Hi is degree of sophistication is no hi ni I i Ii leads three or four books a month. Ill glinlli ni. music, science, chess, and ball-in-. tin. in)* lie travels. He knows jokes. He .i iln • ii'.l ol i nrrent events and sports. He is, i m mi.I iiibiinc, the kind of person his clients HmI 1 I - deli|/hied to have as a guest, even if he HMldn i illi .i /.ii row shuffle.

In this book, Eric deplores the blandness so many magicians embrace in their quest to be inof fensive (what an ideal!). He longs for performers who have a point of view. This is, of course, whal people are complaining about when they say magicians "are all the same." Art can exist without expensive materials and fancy technique. But il cant exist without a point of view, a sensibility, a love, a hate, a hunger. In "Marginalia," Poe writes that what a man need do to revolutionize, at one effort, the universal world of human thought.. .is to write and publish a very little book. Its title should be simple—a few plain words—'My Heart Laid Bare.' But— this little book must be true to its title.

Which leads us back to Tangled Web. This book written mostly in first person—is about Eric's point of view, his loves, hates, and hungers. I! reads like a novel, and lays bare a fine array ol the valves and chambers of Eric Mead's heart. 1 don't mean his family life or his secret vices. This book uncovers the vices (such as mnemonic-deck subtleties and that horrible, vengeful "Bunny-Hi 11 Swindle") with which he entices his Muse and earns his living.

Hihm I % no Inillshit, not a nugget, between tHt ., .(•. II you're like me, you'll emerge H"i - 'I, In1. |>i red, and tingling. Everything you'd i i 11 urn I lie performance of a real artist. qi>


October 2006

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